(photo: ajagendorf25)

As I noted in my last post, there aren’t a whole lot of differences between Harry Reid and John Boehner’s deficit reduction plans. As far as I can tell, there are two main differences:

1) The spending cap. John Boehner’s plan includes a spending cap, with mandatory, automatic cuts across the board to all programs if the cap is breached. Spending caps are terrible ideas; just ask Colorado and the failure of their Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) plan. A spending cap is a recipe to ratchet down the size and scope of government permanently. It would inevitably impact virtually every area of American life, and put us on a fast road to decline.

That said, I don’t think it will become a part of any final deal. Boehner needed to include it to claim that his plan had the same principles as the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act,” the extreme right-wing proposal that pased the House and failed in the Senate last week. He already gave up on “balance” by merely adding in this plan a mandatory vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment between October and December, which will surely fail. So he had to add the “cap” part, and I assume that can be traded away as well.

2) The timing. This is really the main point of contention, and while it’s mostly a process issue, it does have some importance. In Boehner’s plan, the debt limit gets increased in two stages; in Reid’s plan, it increases all at once. Boehner’s second tranche of the debt limit increase is tied to the results of his version of the Catfood Commission; Reid’s is not. That actually has some implications for the Catfood Commission itself. It’s obviously easier to vote down the commission’s recommendations if the full faith and credit of the US government is not on the line.

However, if that’s all we’re talking about here, it just doesn’t seem like that is tenable to hold up an increase in the debt limit and the avoidance of default. I get that Boehner wants to hold America hostage again, but I don’t think the public will stand for it.

So that’s it; those are the differences. It’s not exactly a yawning gap between the parties, is it?

David Dayen

David Dayen